December 11, 2017
School & Youth
44° Partly Cloudy
  • While studies and volunteerism take up a bulk of her time, Maya Kelly is also on the University of Maryland sideline cheerleading squad.
    Photo Provided
    While studies and volunteerism take up a bulk of her time, Maya Kelly is also on the University of Maryland sideline cheerleading squad.
  • Maya Kelly is currently studying civil engineering. “I enjoyed thinking about the world and forces within a physics perspective and being able to know exactly why things worked the way they did,” she said.
    Photo Provided
    Maya Kelly is currently studying civil engineering. “I enjoyed thinking about the world and forces within a physics perspective and being able to know exactly why things worked the way they did,” she said.

Where Are They Now: Maya Kelly

Zach Sparks
picture
View Bio
December 5, 2017

Brainy College Student Defies Stereotypes

“Smart cheerleader” might sound like an oxymoron to some people, but for Maya Kelly, it’s an accurate description. The Chesapeake High graduate is now a sophomore at the University of Maryland, College Park (UMD), where she is studying civil engineering, engaging in community service and cheerleading, hurdling over stereotypes along the way.

While she was at Chesapeake, Kelly was known for her volunteerism. With the Lil Cougars program, she helped younger girls improve upon their cheerleading skills and choreography. She was also vice president of the school’s National Honor Society.

Athletically, Kelly was also revered. She closed out her Chesapeake cheerleading career as senior captain of a squad that won back-to-back state championships in the fall and winter.

Chesapeake High School biology teacher and National Honor Society adviser Maria Harris remembers Kelly as being mature and motivated. “She was always thorough and went above and beyond what the task was,” Harris said. “She demonstrated leadership.”

Academics, athletics, community service — the three pillars that drive Kelly’s aspirations are as strong now as ever. After graduating from Chesapeake, she decided to shift her attention from mechanical engineering to civil engineering.

“I enjoyed thinking about the world and forces within a physics perspective and being able to know exactly why things worked the way they did,” she explained.

Also at UMD, she is part of a community called Flexus. Meant for students in engineering, it empowers women within the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) field.

“Through this program, I do a lot of community service by volunteering at events such as WIE (women in engineering) DREAM conference, Science Olympiad and a crash course offered over the weekend at UMD to get students interested in engineering,” Kelly said. “Through cheerleading, I work many competitions as fundraisers for our program as well, which is kind of a parallel to Lil Cougars. I also did undergraduate research on a nuclear assistant robotic device in the Autonomous Systems lab my freshman year as well, which was a parallel to being on the robotics team in high school.”

If all of that sounds like a mouthful, that’s just the start. With her sorority, Zeta Tau Alpha, Kelly raises awareness about breast cancer and Circle of Sisterhood, which supports education for women in developing countries.

“For my birthday, I also created a Facebook fundraiser to help Hurricane Harvey victims and raised $655. So exciting!” she added. “For my mom’s birthday and Christmas, I also donate money to an orphanage in the Philippines, where my mom grew up.”

Asked why she is passionate about community service, she said, “I believe that I was gifted with so many opportunities and privileges that many other people are not given. Things that many people do not think about day to day, such as their health, knowing where their next meal is coming from, always having somewhere to go home to, and even just having their families with them, are things I could not imagine life without. Many people revolve their whole life around these things, and I believe that it is the least I can do to give them some of what I have.”

While studies take up a bulk of her time, she is also on UMD’s sideline cheerleading squad, which is different from her prior experience at Chesapeake, where activities were more competition-oriented.

“While routines for competitions are more skills-based but the same thing over and over again, sideline cheerleading at a large school like UMD is much more paying attention to what is happening and quick reactions,” Kelly said. “The buzzer for a timeout to be over may happen mid-stunt; you never know what song the band will play [or] how long the timeout will be. You must be self-responsible for your skills and know what to do depending on what happens, or fail on live television.”

Lisa Elliott coached Kelly from the time she first tried cheerleading with Panthers Athletic Club during her middle school years until she graduated from Chesapeake.

“It didn't take long before she evolved from a timid young lady into a confident, strong athlete who strived for greatness in everything she did,” Elliott said. “She was a champion in her sport, in the classroom and in the community, which set a great foundation for her to attend UMD to major in engineering and continue her cheer career. It makes me smile to see her continuing to do great things at the next level, and I am so happy to have been a small part of her journey.”

If she can pay it forward and make others smile, Kelly would offer some sage advice.

“Empowered women empower women. Never be afraid to defy stereotypes and embrace exactly who you are in every aspect,” she said. “I know exactly how it feels to go from cheerleading practice to my robotics practice and have each create assumptions about you for opposing reasons. Nothing will hold you back except a lack of passion and drive. Be weird, be different, be like everyone else if that is who you are, but never not be yourself.”

Do you know any Pasadena residents or former students who are making a difference in the world? Contact pvnews@pasadenavoice.com to see if we can share their story.


Sidebar Ad

Faces of the Voice

  • Lonnie Lancione
    Publisher
  • William Nauman
    Creative Director
  • Dylan Roche
    Editor
    @dylroche
    @dylroche
    @dylroche
  • Brian Lancione
    V.P., Operations
  • Dianna Lancione
    Publisher
    parkiewoman
  • Larry Sells
    Vice President, Sales and Development
    @LarrySells1
    @LarrySells1
    @LarrySells1
  • Colin Murphy
    Sports Editor
    @ArVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
    @SPVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
    @PVoiceSports / @ColinAJMurphy
  • Zach Sparks
    Assistant Editor
    @Sparks907
    @Sparks907
    @Sparks907

Latest Tweets

Events Calendar

Request an Advertising Quote

Please do not add dashes. (ex: 4106479400)
Do not enter anything here.
Search Articles
Search Authors
Search Blog